In order to apply his semiological ideas to the musical work Nattiez must first identify the characteristics of the musical work itself. For Nattiez the musical work must be divided into two distinct categories; its "physical mode of existence and its mode of being (ibid.: 69)." In its physical manifestation, the musical work is sound. "The work manifests itself, in its material reality, in the form of sound waves (ibid.)." (Nattiez covers this subject in great depth in his chapter "The Concept of Music.") On the other hand, defining the works mode of being, its identity, presents some difficulty.
Nattiez appeals to the ideas of the aesthetician Roman Ingarden for clarification of the musical work's ontological mode of existence. For Ingarden, "the work is a purely intentional object, immutable and permanent, whose heteronomous existence is no more than a reflection of its being: the existence of the work finds its source in the "creative act" of the performer, and its foundation in the score (ibid.)." In other words, the score occupies a unique position in relation to the identity of a particular work and its mode of being. The score is what insures the musical work's identity and being throughout, and despite of, history. It is the work's schema. Though the performances (esthesic interpretations) of the score will certainly change throughout time, the score itself will remain the same.
Nattiez not only accepts the ontological charge that Ingarden gives to the musical work's score, he takes it a couple of steps further. Nattiez states that the score is "more than mere schema for the work (ibid.: 71)." The score is the mode of being of the work. The score allows the work to be. The acoustic trace of a work, that which we hear during a performance, is not the work. "The graphic sign (score) is the work (ibid.: 72)." Though the score may be absent in the case of non-western musics that develop out of an oral tradition, Nattiez believes that transcriptions of these musics are necessary for a semiology of these musics to take place. "Multifaceted analysis of a work - to which musical semiology aspires - cannot be realized without the intermediary of notation, or ... of transcription (ibid.)." Without musical notation, be it the work's original score or a transcription of a musical event, musical semiology is not possible. "Music analysis must have the capacity to apply itself to a symbolic substitute for the sonorous fact (ibid.)."
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